The inspiration of the Holy Spirit was evident March 17 when some 2,500 people gathered in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, for the sixth annual Charismatic Retreat where participants sought to intensify their faith in preparation for an encounter with Jesus Christ. The event, which included music, praise, two talks and Mass, was sponsored by the diocesan Department of Multicultural Ministry.
Special presenter for the retreat was Father Dario Bencosme from the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, who is also founder of carismaticoshispanos.com. While the majority of participants were from the Diocese of Trenton, Spanish speaking charismatics from Boston to Minnesota and everywhere in between traveled to be part of the day.
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Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., welcomed participants, saying, “I am so happy as your bishop to be with you today, especially to see so many young beautiful families.”
He continued, “Strong loving marriages and families have always been characteristic of the many Hispanic communities that are a rich part of our diocese,” reminding those present that “there is nothing more important than a strong family in faith.”
Bishop O’Connell mentioned the need for Hispanic vocations to help the Church grow, and to keep serving the Hispanic community. He encouraged mothers and fathers to help their children if they show an interest in a religious vocation, saying, “There are so many young men here today. We need you to be good husbands and fathers but we also need some of you to be priests to minister to the growing number of Hispanic Catholics in our Diocese. And we need young women to become religious sisters.”
Bishop O’Connell’s words were a delight and an affirmation for the crowd when he said, “I feel such pride as I look out over the many young people who are here for this day of prayer and multicultural celebration.
Your presence here is an encouragement to one another to make the Lord Jesus Christ the center of your lives! May his blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe and our Mother, pray to her Son for you today. May he bless you with his joy, love and grace! Your bishop loves you all very much!”
In his talks, Father Bencosme expressed his great love and devotion to the Holy Spirit, acknowledging the power the Spirit has in each person. He spoke on the love and mercy that Jesus has for each person, and all people.
Father Bencosme mentioned that when Jesus manifests his love, nothing else matters, because as Catholics, hearts must be open to receive the love of God and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
Father Bencosme invoked the Holy Spirit’s presence throughout the whole day, mentioning to everyone that it did not matter how many people were at the retreat; each person would experience an encounter with the Holy Spirit in a different way.
“If we open our heart to God, He will send the Holy Spirit to renew all souls and our hearts to be able to follow Jesus’ path to be better people in God,” said Father Bencosme.
Participants were very excited about the visit of Bishop O’Connell, and also by the words of Father Bencosme. Ana Fernandez, who came from Jackson, mentioned that she felt blessed to be part of the day. “I came to this retreat because I needed to find God in my life. I had many problems and I was losing my strength, but when I heard Father Dario talking about the Holy Spirit, I closed my eyes, and I felt the Holy Spirit in me; that changed everything,” she said.
Margarita Lopez, from Trenton, said that the best part of the retreat was the Anointing of the Holy Spirit. “I offered my prayers to God and asked Him to open my heart to the Holy Spirit, to enrich me in his love and mercy, and I truly say that God answered my prayers. I felt his hands over me, and I was blessed as never before.” Lopez stated.
As the day went by, the guests expressed feeling how God was making a difference in their lives. As Father Bencosme explained to the group, each person has their own cross to bear.
However, people have to believe that Jesus Christ will help to carry that cross. No matter how difficult the path to God is, as long as the faithful believe in him and give him their lives as he did for them, all will be saved.
The retreat concluded with the celebration of Mass, where an altar of the Virgin Mary was carried in procession to honor the Mother of God. The homily, offered by Father Bencosme who was also the celebrant, was a conclusion to all the wonderful things that people experienced during the day.
Father Bencosme emphasized how the Holy Spirit’s presence accompanied retreatants during the day, to bless and increase their faith in God.
Father Bencosme also stressed that retreatants would leave, renewed in the grace of the Lord, and with that grace can unite as one Catholic family to share the word of God with each other.